Ami Clarke: Author of the Blank Swan, was a work made in response to the French Lebanese financier and philosopher Elie Ayache’s book ‘The Blank Swan’ - a book about ‘writing’, ‘pricing’ and ‘contingent claims’, in which he suggests that ‘writing’ has an equivalence to ‘pricing’ in the derivatives markets, writing:

“No conceptual tool is available to stage the possibilities open to history, ...maybe a non-conceptual tool or medium can avail itself to us in order that we do something about history. Not that we would predict it, for it is now too late and the historic event has occurred, but maybe we could write it or trade it.”

His philosophical enquiry asked what technology might be available to get inside the very process of history, and do something more active than to watch passively as history unfolds ... altogether different from the conceptual activity consisting in predicting and outguessing history.

The Blank Swan focus’ on the Jorge Louis Borges' story of Pierre Menard; Author of the Quixote that depicts a fictional writer and critic; Pierre Menard, who spends his time writing the 9th and 38th chapters of the first part of the C17th book Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, and a fragment of chapter 22 – several centuries on from when the text was published. Borges writes: “The chapters are the same, every word and every comma, as those written originally by Miguel de Cervantes, yet this wasn’t a mechanical transcription of the original - he did not propose to copy it.” As such, interpretations of the Borges story tend to focus on how ‘reading’ brings about ‘difference’ through a Barthes like emphasis on the true locus of writing as reading.

Conversely, Ayache’s focus interpellates Borges’ fiction with the apparatus of the derivatives markets: the dynamic replication of the BSM (Black Scholes Merton) model, and the derivative contract, that implicitly relies on writing. Hence, bringing about a different emphasis on the act of ‘writing’ – of a previously existing text – as a truly contingent act.

Taking him up on his challenge, with each word that she wrote of The Blank Swan: Chapter 4, Writing and the Market by Elie Ayache, there was simply nothing to say that any given word would necessarily follow the next.

 

 

During the ICA London Technology Now series of talks (see link below) they explored how Jorge Louis Borges' story of Pierre Menard; Author of the Quixote, central to Ayache’s philosophy, differs from previous ideas of copying and appropriation, to repeat the contingency of the text.

https://archive.ica.art/whats-on/series/technology-now

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